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Amorous in Music: William Cavendish in Antwerp (1648-1660)

Daphne [4:10]
Strawberry leaves [1:33]
Tickle my toe [1:48]
John DOWLAND (1563-1626)
Pavan (Taffelconsort) (1621) [4:18]
Lamentatio Henrici Noel [4:10]
Galeazzo SABBATINI (1597-1662)
Congregavit Dominus aquas [4:10]
Nicholaes a KEMPIS (c.1600-1676)
Symphonia No.1 Op.2 [5:01]
Leonora DUARTE (1610-1678)
Sinfonia No.1 [2:29]
William LAWES (1602-1645)
Up, Ladies, Up [1:46]
Suite in G minor [6:28]
Gather ye rosebuds [1:49]
Henry LAWES (1596-1662)
Now Lucatia now make haste [3:52]
Orlando GIBBONS (1583-1625)
Fantasia No.2 from Koninklycke Fantasien [2:37]
Matthew LOCKE (c.1621-1677)
Lucinda, wink or veil those eyes [2:36]
Oh the brave jolly gypsy [1:15]
John JENKINS (1592-1678)
Newark Siege [6:04]
Galliard [2:55]
Nicholas LANIER (1588-1666)
No more shall meads [3:02]
Peter PHILLIPS (1561-1628)
Pavan Dolorosa [4:54]
Galliard [1:35]
Angharad Gruffydd Jones (soprano)
Concordia/Mark Levy
rec. Academiezaal, Sint-Truiden, 11-13 January 2006
ETCETERA KTC 4019 [67:05]

In recent years, William Cavendish, first Duke of Newcastle (1593-1676), has been rather overshadowed by his flamboyant second wife, Margaret (1623?-1673), popularly known amongst some of her contemporaries as ‘mad Madge’. An eccentric in dress and ‘eccentric’ in her insistence on presenting herself to the world as a poet, a dramatist and a philosopher in a time when it was, to put it mildly, unusual for an aristocratic female to do so, she was an extraordinary figure – after meeting her, Mary Evelyn (wife of the diarist John Evelyn) said that she “was surprised to find so much extravagancy and vanity in any person not confined within four walls”. With rise of Women’s Studies she has attracted a good deal of more favourable attention, not least in Katie Whitaker’s excellent biography (2002). William Cavendish himself was, generally speaking, a more conventional figure, though his encouragement of his wife’s (justified) aspirations certainly struck some of his contemporaries as odd. As a soldier, dramatist, poet, horseman and patron of the arts and sciences, Cavendish can be seen as a somewhat belated Renaissance courtier.
Leaving aside his military and political activities, and his own writings, Cavendish’s involvement in the artistic and intellectual life of his times was remarkable. He commissioned work from the famous architect John Smythson; he was a friend and patron of Ben Jonson and of his fellow dramatists John Ford and James Shirley; he sat to Van Dyck for his portrait and remained in correspondence with him afterwards; as an enquirer into the natural Sciences his circle included Thomas Hobbes. When in exile following the Civil War, his friends included René Descartes and the astronomer Pierre Gassendi. Naturally enough, music was one of his many interests – an interest celebrated on this attractive CD.
Cavendish collected musical books and manuscripts; more than one musical work was dedicated to him; household inventories show that he possessed substantial numbers of musical instruments. The composers represented on this CD were all of them definitely (or very probably) associated with Cavendish in one way or another – Lynn Hulse’s very useful booklet notes elaborate on these connections. There is an emphasis – though it is not exclusive – on Cavendish’s musical interests while in exile in Antwerp, between 1648 and 1660 (the Cavendishes lived in the house formerly occupied by Rubens).
Those who have heard earlier recordings by Concordia will not be surprised to be told that these recordings are technically assured and thoroughly musical. There’s a fine performance of William Lawes’s ‘Suite in G minor’, beautiful and powerful, strong and delicate. John Jenkins’s ‘Newark Siege’ is a quasi-programmatic response to the breaking, by Price Rupert, of the Parliamentarians’ siege of Newark, where Cavendish had placed a Royalist garrison – it is an intriguing piece, here played (and recorded) with great clarity. There are many other pleasures on the disc, more than a few of them in the pieces in which the excellent soprano Angharad Gruffydd Jones joins Concordia. There is something of the mezzo in Jones’s voice and there is a delightful vocal richness in her interpretations of a number of royalist songs. The anonymous ‘Daphne’ which opens the programme is a substantial piece which traverses several moods; there’s a winning boisterousness in her performance of Matthew Locke’s setting of  ‘Oh the brave jolly Gypsie’, a song from one of Cavendish’s dramatic works, The Triumphant Widow (1674) – and a text which would scarcely survive the scrutiny of a modern Race Relations Board.
This is a well planned programme with a genuine unity amongst the seeming diversity of its musical materials – unified by the sensibility and interests of an enthusiast and patron, rather than by composer or genre. Since it is very well performed and recorded, it can be recommended without hesitation.
Glyn Pursglove

see also review by Jonathan Woolf


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